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The Cost of Rights : Why Liberty Depends on Taxes - Stephen Holmes

The Cost of Rights

Why Liberty Depends on Taxes

Paperback Published: 1st January 1999
ISBN: 9780393320336
Number Of Pages: 256

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All legally enforceable rights cost money. A practical, commonsense notion? Yes, but one ignored by almost everyone, from libertarian ideologues to Supreme Court justices to human rights advocates. The simple insight that rights are expensive reminds us that freedom is not violated by a government that taxes and spends, but requires it - and requires a citizenry vigilant about how money is allocated. Laying bare the folly of some of our most cherished myths about rights, this groundbreaking tract will permanently change the terms of our most critical and contentious political debates.

Industry Reviews

Offering nuanced ideas, Holmes (Political Science/Princeton and New York Univ. Law School) and Sunstein (Law/Univ. of Chicago) defend modern liberalism in the attention-getting guise of arguing for taxation. Liberalism is at heart a system of rights designed to promote and protect individual welfare and self-development. Yet rights are also a "public good." Their well-being is dependent upon the willingness of the community, through government, to protect and enforce them. In turn, the community must also be willing to give a portion of its collective assets in the form of taxes to the government so that government may carry out its enforcement responsibilities. In other words, rights cost money. A truism to be sure, but one, the authors argue, ignored by most everyone. Liberals, for instance, worry that focusing on the cost of rights may lead to further cuts in budgetary allocations for the protection of rights. Conservatives avoid looking at such costs as it may reveal how dependent private wealth is, in the form of myriad protections of private property, on government and taxpayers' contributions. Nevertheless, thinking of rights in terms of cost may reveal much. Arguments over competing rights are often arguments over money; spending more on one right may mean spending less on another. So how public resources are allocated can substantially affect the scope and value of rights. This leads to questions, all examined by the authors, of who decides what resources are spent to protect what fights for the benefit of what groups of individuals. We might want to examine if government spending on rights protection benefits society overall or too often only those groups with strong political influence. Holmes and Sunstein conclude with a call for greater democratic accountability in such spending and more public debate over the priority of rights. Sure to hearten some and irritate others, this work is a valuable contribution to our ongoing debate on rights and justice. (Kirkus Reviews)

Acknowledgmentsp. 9
Introduction: Common Sense about Rightsp. 13
Why a Penniless State Cannot Protect Rights
All Rights Are Positivep. 35
The Necessity of Government Performancep. 49
No Property without Taxationp. 59
Watchdogs Must Be Paidp. 77
Why Rights Cannot Be Absolutes
How Scarcity Affects Libertyp. 87
How Rights Differ from Interestsp. 99
Enforcing Rights Means Distributing Resourcesp. 113
Why Tradeoffs Are Inescapablep. 118
Why Rights Entail Responsibilities
Have Rights Gone Too Far?p. 135
The Unselfishness of Rightsp. 152
Rights as a Response to Moral Breakdownp. 162
Understanding Rights as Bargains
How Religious Liberty Promotes Stabilityp. 175
Rightsholders as Stakeholdersp. 189
Welfare Rights and the Politics of Inclusionp. 204
Conclusion: The Public Character of Private Freedomsp. 220
Some Numbers on Rights and Their Costsp. 233
Notesp. 237
Indexp. 247
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780393320336
ISBN-10: 0393320332
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 256
Published: 1st January 1999
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 21.34 x 13.97  x 2.03
Weight (kg): 0.32

Earn 63 Qantas Points
on this Book